Fabio Luisi / Dallas Symphony Orchestra

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John F
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Fabio Luisi / Dallas Symphony Orchestra

Post by John F » Fri Sep 06, 2019 9:09 am

Among hs other distinctions, Luisi was briefly a member of CompuServe's Music Forum.

Change in tempo: Dallas Symphony Orchestra's new conductor brings subtlety and more variety
By Scott Cantrell
Sep 4, 2019

When an orchestra picks its next music director, it often goes for the opposite of the outgoing leader. That's happening with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, although not in the most obvious ways.

Fabio Luisi, who begins his first full season as the DSO's music director-designate with concerts Sept. 12-15, is European, as is his predecessor, Jaap van Zweden. They're about the same age: Luisi 60, van Zweden 58. But they're very different in personalities, musical inclinations and career trajectories.

Luisi, best known on these shores for his tenure earlier this decade as principal conductor of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, is a compact, dapper, soft-spoken Italian. A son of the Netherlands, van Zweden, now music director of the New York Philharmonic, is burly and exuberant — and, as DSO musicians will tell you, sometimes an intimidating taskmaster.

Those qualities come across in performances. Van Zweden, who dramatically improved the DSO during his 10-year tenure, produced viscerally exciting performances, occasionally at the price of rushed tempos and overcharged volume levels. By contrast, when Luisi in March 2018 conducted the DSO in Richard Strauss' Ein Heldenleben, a piece that often tempts conductors into excess, the performance was notable for careful structure and layering of dynamics.

Luisi is conducting another dramatic Strauss tone poem, the Alpine Symphony, in his season-opening concerts, along with Beethoven's Emperor Piano Concerto, with Cliburn Competition medalist Beatrice Rana, and the Dallas premiere of Aureole, by contemporary American composer Augusta Read Thomas.

Due to his pre-existing contracts as general music director of the Zurich Opera and chief conductor of the Danish National Symphony, Luisi is conducting only five programs this season before fully taking over as music director in 2020-21. Even with the delayed takeover, DSO musicians are enthusiastic.

DSO concertmaster Alexander Kerr and principal bassoonist Ted Soluri, both of whom served on the 12-person search committee, were immediately impressed with Luisi's first rehearsal in March 2018. "From the downbeat of Ein Heldenleben," Soluri says, "I'm not sure I'd ever heard the orchestra sound that way. When he first started conducting, you knew exactly what to give — in sound and volume and whatever it needed to be. It was just a full, rich sound that I hadn't heard in a while."

Kerr recalls, "We were all trying to impress him. When it said fortissimo, we got a little out of hand. He said, 'We all have different levels of fortissimo. Never take the sound past beautiful.' The entire violin section applauded, which I don't think I'd ever seen before."From Greek and Latin to conducting

Van Zweden, who helmed the DSO from 2008 to 2018, was a relative latecomer to conducting. Originally a superb violinist who became the youngest-ever concertmaster of Amsterdam's Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, he arrived here relatively early in his podium career. Luisi, by contrast, arrives as a veteran of major orchestras and opera companies on both sides of the Atlantic.

He hails from Genoa, birthplace of explorer Christopher Columbus, violinist/composer Niccolò Paganini and architect Renzo Piano (designer of the Nasher Sculpture Center and the Kimbell Art Museum's Piano Pavilion in Fort Worth). He's the son of a conductor — a train conductor, who in earlier years played saxophone in a dance band — and a seamstress.

"My parents told me that I always listened to the radio," Luisi says over the phone from a guest-conducting gig in Tokyo, "and when it was music, I was completely fascinated. When I was 3 1/2, they took me to a teacher, a French lady who played in the orchestra in Genoa. I had a choice between violin and piano, and apparently I chose piano."

He went to college to study not music but ancient Greek and Latin. Only in his late teens did musical passions take over, with serious piano study at Genoa's Paganini Conservatory, and subsequently in Paris. "I knew that my skills in piano were not enough for a career," he says. "I was 18, 19 and there were kids 14, 15 years old who played amazingly. So I started to work with singers as a coach, and from there I started to become interested in conducting — orchestral conducting."

After conducting studies at the conservatory in Graz, Austria, he was hired by the Graz Opera as a coach and then conductor. To gain symphonic experience, he founded and led the Graz Symphony for five years. His career really took off with his 1995 appointment as principal conductor of the Vienna Tonkünstler Orchestra. Then followed top posts, sometimes overlapping, with a succession of prominent European orchestras and opera companies: the MDR Symphony in Leipzig, the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande in Geneva, the Dresden Staatskapelle and Semperoper, and the Vienna Symphony.

In 2011, when longtime Metropolitan Opera music director James Levine was sidelined by health problems including Parkinson's disease, Luisi was named the Met's principal conductor. To considerable acclaim, he was taking over more and more high-profile productions, even Wagner's Ring Cycle. There was widespread speculation that Luisi was being groomed as Levine's successor.

"The orchestra liked him," says Heidi Waleson, the Wall Street Journal's opera critic, "and he was a calming influence all around. He's interested in theater. And he's an excellent conductor, very persuasive in a lot of different repertory," she said. "The performances were clear, sculpted and idiomatic, with a through-line, and he's a wonderfully sensitive accompanist of singers. Certainly a lot of us expected that he would get the top job."

Levine rallied, though, for a couple of years before resigning as music director in 2016 and taking a salaried emeritus title. The Canadian conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin was named the next music director. The Met severed all connections with Levine in March 2018 after accusations of sexual harassment exploded in the press. Claims and counterclaims between Levine and the Met ended in an undisclosed settlement earlier this summer.

Already heading the Zurich opera company, Luisi in 2017 added the Danish National Symphony to his portfolio. Luisi says there was never any official discussion of his succeeding Levine. "The discussion about the heir apparent in The New York Times, first of all, it was inaccurate, and second, it was simply speculation."

Luisi's contract with the Zurich Opera, which also includes some symphonic concerts, was to run until 2022, but he's cutting back his commitments there next season and exiting a year early. Another appointment, as music director of Florence's Opera di Firenze and the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino festival, lasted only a year, until this past July, when both Luisi and the company's general director resigned to protest what they considered political meddling in the company. Luisi is honoring a commitment to conduct the orchestra on some tour engagements.

The DSO's search committee, chaired by Morton H. Meyerson, began with a list of around 100 names. Apart from the Metropolitan Opera years, and scattered guest-conducting gigs in the U.S., Luisi was mainly known in Europe. Of the committee musicians, only Kerr had played under him, once, some years earlier. But Luisi's name kept resurfacing.

The search was gradually narrowed to three front-runners and three second-tier candidates — none of whom, apart from Luisi, has been identified. Committee members traveled to observe candidates working with other orchestras and opera companies. Meyerson watched Luisi at the Met and in rehearsals with the DSO.

"He was demanding, yet he was funny and light, as opposed to harsh or punitive," Meyerson says of the DSO rehearsals. "I've been in leadership in the military and the corporate world, and there's a certain unknown quality about really good leadership. They can be demanding and tough, and not be mean and harsh.

"That's what I saw with Fabio. He was not passive, not solicitous, not overly positive, not 'everything's great.' He was critical, but the way he was critical was a very astute way of communicating. He told them, 'We need more ensemble,' or whatever, but with respect for the musicians. I was totally impressed with his presence, the way he handled himself."

Luisi says, "My style is to put accents on articulation and proper readings, and on the beauty of the sound, which is very important to me. I know that American orchestras tend to be very muscular. That is not the way I intend to work with this orchestra. "I was once with another very important orchestra in America, and I told them, 'You are exploring very impressively the range between forte and fortissimo. Now let's explore the difference between piano and pianissimo.' This is somehow my style."

After too many years of DSO reliance on, and repetition of, the most standard repertory, the Luisi era promises new initiatives in programming and personnel. He wants to do an opera in concert each season, and to include more American music — "not only the contemporary, but also the history of composition in America." He knows lots of lesser-known repertory, and he's eager to give Dallas audiences more variety. The 2019-20 season includes rare performances of Franz Schmidt's Book of the Seven Seals and Ralph Vaughan Williams' Sea Symphony as well as a concert version of Strauss' familiar opera Salome.

The DSO is also making a major commitment to engaging female conductors and composers. The New Zealand-born Gemma New is the orchestra's first principal guest conductor in years, and Katharina Wincor, an Austrian, is the new assistant conductor. The Pulitzer Prize-winning Julia Wolfe is in her second season as composer-in-residence.'A beautiful hobby'

With a packed international conducting schedule, what does Luisi do to relax? "Golf playing, perfume making, reading books, watching movies," he says. "Normal things. Very basic." P erfume making? Yes, indeed. He concocts perfumes and sells them online at flparfums.com. "I was always fascinated by perfumes. When I was in New York, I decided to go a little bit further. I bought the first 15 raw substances to start experimenting a little bit. It grew, this fascination. It's a hobby. I'm not a professional. It's a beautiful hobby."

https://www.dallasnews.com/arts-enterta ... e-variety/
John Francis

lennygoran
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Re: Fabio Luisi / Dallas Symphony Orchestra

Post by lennygoran » Fri Sep 06, 2019 9:24 am

John F wrote:
Fri Sep 06, 2019 9:09 am
Among hs other distinctions, Luisi was briefly a member of CompuServe's Music Forum.

Wow, that had to be before my time-CS sysop Ed C lives in that area-wonder what he thinks about Luisi. Regards, Len

John F
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Re: Fabio Luisi / Dallas Symphony Orchestra

Post by John F » Fri Sep 06, 2019 10:05 am

He's still alive, age 84 - I found his Facebook page.

https://www.facebook.com/people/Edward- ... 2972242195
John Francis

lennygoran
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Re: Fabio Luisi / Dallas Symphony Orchestra

Post by lennygoran » Fri Sep 06, 2019 10:10 am

John F wrote:
Fri Sep 06, 2019 10:05 am
He's still alive, age 84 - I found his Facebook page.
That's great to hear! Regards, Len :D

maestrob
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Re: Fabio Luisi / Dallas Symphony Orchestra

Post by maestrob » Fri Sep 06, 2019 11:24 am

I liked Luisi's conducting while he was at the MET, and the Dallas Symphony is indeed a fine orchestra. I particularly resonate with Luisi's dictum: "Never go beyond beautiful." That makes sense to me. 8)

Belle
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Re: Fabio Luisi / Dallas Symphony Orchestra

Post by Belle » Fri Sep 06, 2019 4:20 pm

maestrob wrote:
Fri Sep 06, 2019 11:24 am
I liked Luisi's conducting while he was at the MET, and the Dallas Symphony is indeed a fine orchestra. I particularly resonate with Luisi's dictum: "Never go beyond beautiful." That makes sense to me. 8)
What do you think he meant by that quote?

barney
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Re: Fabio Luisi / Dallas Symphony Orchestra

Post by barney » Fri Sep 06, 2019 5:54 pm

maestrob wrote:
Fri Sep 06, 2019 11:24 am
I liked Luisi's conducting while he was at the MET, and the Dallas Symphony is indeed a fine orchestra. I particularly resonate with Luisi's dictum: "Never go beyond beautiful." That makes sense to me. 8)
Mozart said the same thing.

Belle
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Re: Fabio Luisi / Dallas Symphony Orchestra

Post by Belle » Fri Sep 06, 2019 6:33 pm

barney wrote:
Fri Sep 06, 2019 5:54 pm
maestrob wrote:
Fri Sep 06, 2019 11:24 am
I liked Luisi's conducting while he was at the MET, and the Dallas Symphony is indeed a fine orchestra. I particularly resonate with Luisi's dictum: "Never go beyond beautiful." That makes sense to me. 8)
Mozart said the same thing.
Heresy alert: for me Mozart's music went beyond that. Not all the time, but much of it. Consequently it creates what I refer to as "beauty fatigue". I long for the angularity, the unexpected, the challenging. That has propelled me on to new musical frontiers over the years, so has been a good thing for me.

John F
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Re: Fabio Luisi / Dallas Symphony Orchestra

Post by John F » Sat Sep 07, 2019 2:53 am

barney wrote:
Fri Sep 06, 2019 5:54 pm
maestrob wrote:
Fri Sep 06, 2019 11:24 am
I particularly resonate with Luisi's dictum: "Never go beyond beautiful." That makes sense to me. 8)
Mozart said the same thing.
Did he? I've read many of his letters and never seen any such statement - indeed, I don't think he used the word "beautiful" ("schön") when speaking of music. Can you give me a source?

There are places in Mozart where he appears to have deliberately written music as beautiful as he was able. One is the trio in "Così fan tutte," "Soave sia il vento," and I don't know of a more beautiful performance than in Karajan's complete recording:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XPshz3-3p-M

But even this isn't merely beautiful; the muted string figure throughout represents the gentle undulation of the waves ("tranquillo sia l'onda") referred to by the words. And there are places in which Mozart certainly does "go beyond beautiful."


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RzQMtnjiceY

As for Luisi's dictum, he's saying not to play so loud as to force and coarsen the tone, as the New York Philharmonic often did during the Zubin Mehta years. When Kurt Masur took over in 1991, he corrected this in his very first concert, which included Bruckner's 7th symphony in a performance that was not underplayed but just slightly less loud with very careful dynamic balances. The orchestra hadn't sounded so beautiful in years.
John Francis

Rach3
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Re: Fabio Luisi / Dallas Symphony Orchestra

Post by Rach3 » Sat Sep 07, 2019 8:39 am

JohnF wrote:
Sat Sep 07, 2019 2:53 am
When Kurt Masur took over in 1991, he corrected this in his very first concert, which included Bruckner's 7th symphony in a performance that was not underplayed but just slightly less loud with very careful dynamic balances. The orchestra hadn't sounded so beautiful in years.
I heard that concert which was TV broadcast, and the 7th was great. If I recall, Masur was criticized in some circles for doing the 7th at his debut , perhaps because of its length (?), or by those who prefer flashier ?

barney
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Re: Fabio Luisi / Dallas Symphony Orchestra

Post by barney » Sun Sep 08, 2019 6:02 pm

John F wrote:
Sat Sep 07, 2019 2:53 am
barney wrote:
Fri Sep 06, 2019 5:54 pm
maestrob wrote:
Fri Sep 06, 2019 11:24 am
I particularly resonate with Luisi's dictum: "Never go beyond beautiful." That makes sense to me. 8)
Mozart said the same thing.
Did he? I've read many of his letters and never seen any such statement - indeed, I don't think he used the word "beautiful" ("schön") when speaking of music. Can you give me a source?

There are places in Mozart where he appears to have deliberately written music as beautiful as he was able. One is the trio in "Così fan tutte," "Soave sia il vento," and I don't know of a more beautiful performance than in Karajan's complete recording:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XPshz3-3p-M

But even this isn't merely beautiful; the muted string figure throughout represents the gentle undulation of the waves ("tranquillo sia l'onda") referred to by the words. And there are places in which Mozart certainly does "go beyond beautiful."


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RzQMtnjiceY

As for Luisi's dictum, he's saying not to play so loud as to force and coarsen the tone, as the New York Philharmonic often did during the Zubin Mehta years. When Kurt Masur took over in 1991, he corrected this in his very first concert, which included Bruckner's 7th symphony in a performance that was not underplayed but just slightly less loud with very careful dynamic balances. The orchestra hadn't sounded so beautiful in years.
John, sorry, I will have to wait because I have a frantic week. It was a quotation from a letter, maybe to Leopold or someone else. I pasted it on to the cover of my first LP catalogue, in typewriter days 40 years ago, and no longer have it. It was along the lines that even music intended to convey something ugly should still be beautiful. As I had it in English, I do not know if schon was used.

Belle
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Re: Fabio Luisi / Dallas Symphony Orchestra

Post by Belle » Sun Sep 08, 2019 8:53 pm

Music should be complex, original, architectural, inspirational, challenging, ingenius and musical. "Beautiful" is a bonus, but not absolutely essential. I wouldn't necessarily call a lot of Bach's music "beautiful" at all. This piece is a balm, a salve for life's depredations: contemplative and transcendent. I have two friends who have seriously ill grandchildren and this is the piece I'd recommend.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uRnA8VaFzD8

John F
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Re: Fabio Luisi / Dallas Symphony Orchestra

Post by John F » Sun Sep 08, 2019 11:16 pm

A great recording, and not just of that aria.
John Francis

John F
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Re: Fabio Luisi / Dallas Symphony Orchestra

Post by John F » Sun Sep 08, 2019 11:47 pm

barney wrote:John, sorry, I will have to wait because I have a frantic week. It was a quotation from a letter, maybe to Leopold or someone else. I pasted it on to the cover of my first LP catalogue, in typewriter days 40 years ago, and no longer have it. It was along the lines that even music intended to convey something ugly should still be beautiful. As I had it in English, I do not know if schon was used.
Maybe I can save you the trouble. Mozart did write to his father about the desirable qualities of music in general, but he didn't speak of the beautiful., only of the "natural." "Music must never offend the ear, but must please the listener, or in other words must never cease to be music."

We have to consider that one of Mozart's purposes in what he wrote to his father was to win approval and trust. Leopold was concerned that Mozart not write music so difficult as to prevent commercial success - and indeed a standard criticism of Mozart's mature works at that time was their difficulty. At about the same time as those comments, Mozart was composing the quartets dedicated to Haydn, one of which begins like this:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_60MT6jW-ls
John Francis

barney
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Re: Fabio Luisi / Dallas Symphony Orchestra

Post by barney » Mon Sep 09, 2019 7:56 am

Thank you John. That probably was the quote, in a slightly different translation. And that is an extraordinary opening, is it not? The first few bars could easily be Stravinsky.

barney
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Re: Fabio Luisi / Dallas Symphony Orchestra

Post by barney » Mon Sep 09, 2019 8:00 am

Belle wrote:
Sun Sep 08, 2019 8:53 pm
Music should be complex, original, architectural, inspirational, challenging, ingenius and musical. "Beautiful" is a bonus, but not absolutely essential. I wouldn't necessarily call a lot of Bach's music "beautiful" at all. This piece is a balm, a salve for life's depredations: contemplative and transcendent. I have two friends who have seriously ill grandchildren and this is the piece I'd recommend.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uRnA8VaFzD8
Thank you Sue. Utterly lovely.

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